travel tips &  itinerary 

Let's rip the bandaid off and get the painful bit out of the way first...the accommodation, it's crazy expensive here, like "reeeeally offensive!" (Pretty Woman reference, inserted HERE). On our last day in Singapore, I made sure that we flew out late, at 11:30 pm so we got a full day of exploring in, without having to pay for another nights accommodation at the end of it...and that is pro tip number one! There are also higher taxes on alcohol here - so cocktails are somewhat of a luxury item. But what WILL sweeten the deal on those expensive stays and pricey drinks, and the reason alone I wanted to come here, is the food - and for the most part, it's pretty cheap! Hawker Centers (open-aired food courts) have been described as being the heart of the Singaporean culture. They are a way of bringing the diversity of cultures and communities who live here together because, through food, this is one (and very joyful) way you can experience these traditions. And it's some of the best food you'll find in South East Asia! There are over 100 Hawker Centers in this small country and many of the legendary ones are listed are within my itinerary below. My advice - order the smallest portion possible and share plates so that you can try more...there is SO much to try! I have included several links within this itinerary so you can watch travel vlogs based on the locations mentioned, and I've Google mapped locations to each spot for convenience. I have highlighted my absolute favourite places I visited, so you will know that these come highly recommended.


 

FUN FACTS & video's to watch

  • Singapore is an island, a city, a state and its own country!

  • 240 square miles with 5 million people living there

  • For full travel tips on Singapore, watch this video by one of my favourite Y HERE

     

ACCOMMODATION
As mentioned above, accommodation is expensive and to put the prices of my favourite finds below side by side with the famous Marina Bay Sands - rooms there start at around $450 NZD per night for a lower floor room going right up to $6,690 NZD a night for their Sky View suite. Ridiculous right. Here are 3 of my favourite boutique hotel finds in Singapore:

  • The Warehouse HoteL | Where we stayed. The Warehouse Hotel was built in 1895 along the Singapore River as part of the Straits of Malacca trade route. At that time, the area was a hotbed of secret societies, underground activity, and liquor distilleries. Today, while much of that history has disappeared, The Warehouse Hotel has been meticulously restored as a modern 37-room boutique hotel, focusing on heritage and local culture. Rooms start at $298 NZD and they have a 57 sqm suite which you need to inquire to book. TIP: I had read on TripAdvisor that people who stayed on the bottom (street) level rooms complained that people passing by could see in - this is one of the reasons I booked a River View Loft as it is on the second floor. Also, the cheapest rooms are windowless - so do your research first to find something that suits, and if in doubt, email reception before committing. Read their 'certificate of excellence' reviews on TripAdvisor HERE and see the hotel website HERE. 

  • Lloyds Inn | If you are a minimal lover, then this 34-room boutique hotel might just be for you. It has 8 room types which covers a range of budgets and is located in Somerset, a five-minute walk away from Singapore’s famous Orchard Road shopping belt. Room prices range from $180 NZD up to $300 NZD per night. Hotel website HERE.

  • The Great Madras | Now the reviews to this place are very mixed on TripAdvisor (which you can read HERE), and mixed reviews are reason enough for me not to book somewhere, I live for consistency. But I wanted to mention this hotel for two reasons: 1. The fit out and decor is absolutely stunning and super cool - think of all the best pastel tones, tilling for days mixed with the perfect amount of art deco! And 2. It's in Little India which is an area that is slightly cheaper, so if you are looking for more budget-friendly options then this place might suit. Prices start at $166 NZD per night for hostel rooms and up to $355 NZD for their suite. Link to their website HERE.

  • Need a pool? | Looking for a pool and your accommodation does have one? See this guide to the best swimming pools in Singapore HERE.


 

TIPS

  • WEATHER | It is hot, humid all year round, and often rains. Make sure you pack a portable umbrella if heading out for the day, and wear natural fibre clothing to help keep you cool.

  • HAWKER CENTERS | The best food in Singapore can be found in Hawker Centers! As mentioned above, there are over 100 Hawker centres in Singapore and they are filled with stalls which were once street food carts. They have been moved indoors by the government to regulate hygiene and also "clean up the streets". Hawker Centres are cheap, but the outdoor hawker centres will always be the most inexpensive options because these are not air-conditioned - great to know if you are travelling on a budget. Here are some Hawker Center protocols.; If you want to save an empty table and then go and look for food, simply find a table and ‘reserve’ it by putting something inexpensive you have on it, ie a packet of tissues or a water bottle etc. and it’s yours! So if you see an empty table, check first to make sure someone else has not ‘reserved’ it yet with their item. Tables have numbers on them - take note of it as some hawker stalls will deliver the food to you and ask for your table number, others you will have to wait for the food after paying for it. Make sure to take napkins and wet wipes with you as they don’t provide these, but most have areas where you can wash your hands. Depending what Hawker Center you are at, some may not always have an obvious place to take your trays/plates up when you've finished eating. If there are, and you can see this, be courteous and take it up, if not, leave them on the table and they will get quickly cleared by the staff.

  • A GUIDE TO COFFEE | In Singapore, the coffee scene is very present, and here it is spelt and pronounced Kopi. There are many different ways to order it: Kopi: Black Coffee with condensed milk | Kopi Peng: Sweet black coffee with condensed milk and ice | Kopi O Siew Dai: Black coffee with less sugar | Kopi-O: Sweet black coffee | Kopi-Kosong: Unsweetened black coffee | Kopi Kosong Peng: Unsweetened black coffee with ice | Kopi-O Peng: Sweet black coffee with ice | Kopi Gah Dai: Black coffee with extra condensed milk | Kopi Po: A weaker coffee with condensed milk | Kopi Gau: Strong coffee with condensed milk | Kopi-C: Coffee with unsweetened evaporated milk (the C is for Carnation, the brand of evaporated milk); but they’ll still add sugar | Kopi Ta Bao: To-go.

  • TAXIS & GRAB | You can find taxi stands at shopping malls, public buildings, hotels, and very easily at the airport. But because of the heavy road taxes, it is extremely expensive to drive a car in Singapore. So, unlike the rest of Southeast Asia, taxis can be a little tricky to find especially during peak hours. For a cheaper option to Taxis, you can use Grab (Asias alternative to Uber) so make sure you download the app before you go. It is used in the same way as Uber. 

  • PUBLIC TRANSPORT | The metro (MRT) is the cheapest way of getting around. You can get a ‘tourist pass’ card - which will give you unlimited access to transportation for $10 a day. You can buy a 1-3 day pass, and the card itself will cost you a deposit of $10 which you get back when you return the card. More about the card HERE. Download this app HERE.

     

ITINERARy DAY ONE 

  • BREAKFAST | Ya Kun Kaya Toast | The most uniquely Singaporean breakfast is kaya toast. Kaya is a sort of jam made from coconut, egg and pandan leaves and is served on toasted bread with a thick layer of butter. It is often served with soft boiled eggs which you crack open and season with soy sauce and white pepper - then dip the kaya toast into it. Complete your Singaporean breakfast with a Kopi (coffee). Ya Kun Kaya toast is a famous breakfast chain that serves this breakfast, and has many shops across Singapore - and you'll usually find them inside malls. See their website HERE.
     A MUST TRY (ESP the steamed fluffy kaya bread) 

  • EXPLORE | Botanical gardens | The Singapore Botanic Gardens is a 160-year-old tropical garden located at the fringe of Singapore's Orchard Road shopping district. It is one of three gardens, and the only tropical garden, to be honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Get here early before it gets too hot!
    HOURS: 5 am-Midnight 
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • LUNCH | Maxwell food centre | You can watch the Strictly Dumpling video about Maxwell on YouTube HERE. Shops to order from: Tian Tian Hainanese chicken -  The most popular thing to order at this Hawker centre. See TripAdvisor HEREHOURS: 10 am to 5:30 pm, closed Monday. STALL NUMBER: #01-10 The Green Leaf for Nasi Lemak - Fragrant coconut rice with a mix of different accompaniments usually a curry or chicken wing, sambal sauce, pickles or cucumber, and anchovies. HOURS: Monday-Friday 7 am to 9 pm. STALL NUMBER: #01-100 | Rickshaw Noodles - For something super comforting, order their Economy Noodles ($1/$1.50). They . have a nice chewy texture and is coated in a sweet-savoury sauce. HOURS: 6:30 am to 1:30 pm, closed FridaySTALL NUMBER: #01-87
    ADDRESS FOR MAXWELL FOOD CENTER: HERE

     A MUST visit 

  • 2ND LUNCH | AMOY FOOD CENTRE | Built in 1983, Amoy Street Food Centre is a local culinary institution and their lunch crowd is a testament of that. The two-storey hawker centre on Maxwell Road is home to a wide range of stall, and here are some of the best: J2 Famous Crispy Curry Puff - they have a variety of flavours but apparently, the curried chicken one is best. For just over $1.40 per puff, you can order a few and see what one you like best. HOURS: 8 am – 4pm,Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays. STALL NUMBER: #01-21  | LaO Dou SOYBEAN dessert - for their silky soybean pudding, barely drink and chrysanthemum tea. HOURS: 7 am - 9 pm. Stall number: #01-17.  | A Noodle Story - For a Singaporean version of a Ramen | HOURS: 11:15 pm - 2 pm for lunch, 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm for dinner, Saturday 10:30 am - 1:30 pm, closed Sundays. STALL NUMBER: #01-39. 
    ADDRESS: HERE

  •   EXPLORE | Chinatown | Chinatown in Singapore is a sharp contrast to the rest of the city, with low rise buildings and culture bursting out onto the streets, from the fragrant smells of traditional cuisine to the bold red and gold tones that run through the neighbourhood. This is an area that’s proud of its heritage and has it very much on display. There are ornate Chinese, Buddhist and Hindu temples, museums galore and plenty of opportunities to soak up the bustling streets lined with old shophouses.

  • SIGHTS | Buddha tooth relic temple and museum | In Chinatown. NOTE: Like all temples,  avoid wearing hats, shorts or revealing tops, although there are sarongs that you can use to cover. See TripAdvisor HERE
    HOURS: 7 am - 7 pm, Evening closing ceremony - drum, bell board ritual timing: 6:15 pm
    ADDRESS: 
    HERE

  • EXPLORE | Blair Road | A 15 min walk from Chinatown area, is a street lined with the prettiest shop fronts and homes. Worth a wonder! (Walk via Keong Saik Road)
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • SHOPPING | VivoCity | This is the largest mall in Singapore and is located in the Harbour Front area, close to Sentosa Island. To get here, apart from a taxi or Grab, you can take the train to Sentosa Station as this is conveniently located on level 3 (next to the Food Republic food court) of the mall. There is also a bus stop in front of VivoCity, connecting it to Resorts World Sentosa. The linkway at basement 2 and level 1 connects to HarbourFront MRT Station and HarbourFront Bus Interchange.
    B2 levels. Here are some popular spots to visit, and the level and then the shop number is in brackets.: All the yummy treats such as Krispy Kreme (B2-K2), Auntie Anne's pretzels (B2-K6), Beard Papa's cream puffs (B2-K13), Yan Kan Kaya Toast (B2-26) and Toast Box (B2-34). As well as food they have plenty of retail therapy such as Adidas (B1-06), Aesop (01-06), Kiehl's (01-11), Zara (01-28), Pull & Bear clothing (01-38), Sephora (01-178), Crumpler bags (01-94), Vans (02-68) and the LEGO store (02-90). You can even get your nails did at N20 Nail Spa (02-158/159), website 
    HERE.
    HOURS: 10 am - 10 pm 
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • CHILLI & BLACK PEPPER CRAB | Momma Kong’s | Their chilli and black pepper crab look amazing, but what sold this place for me was the steamed or deep fried buns you can order on the side ($3.50 for two) to mop up all of that delicious sauce to go with! The crabs are $55 SGD each (not cheap) but another Singaporean favourite for crab, UDMC is $98 per kg. See their menu HERE and see on YouTube HERE (at 8:53 sec)
    HOURS: 5pm - 11pm Monday-Friday, 11 am - 11pm weekends
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • SNACKS | Lau Pa Sat Satay Street | Head here for some smokey satay heaven - meat on a stick and cold beers (or sugar cane juice!). Satay costs 70c per stick, the rice cakes are $1 (long boiled rice in a small bag, served cold) and beer is $5.50...flag down a Tiger lady in Red. Stall number 7 and 8 is famous and their satay sauce is renowned. Come bang on 7 pm (if not just before) as it packs out quickly, and bring napkins and wet wipes - they don’t provide these.
    HOURS: 7 pm - 1 am
    ADDRESS: HERE


 

DAY two

  • HAWKER CENTER BREAKFAST  | Tiong Bahru Food Center |  See the market website HERE and an eating video from Chasing a Plate HERE. Where to order from: Lor Mee 178 | Here they serve Lor Mee which a Chinese-inspired noodle dish served in a thick starchy gravy and thick flat yellow noodles (also known aslor mee). What makes this particular stall famous is their signature deep-fried shark fritters which they top the dish with. HOURS: 7 am - 2:30 pm, closed Mondays. STALL NUMBER: #02-23 | Teck Seng Soya Bean Milk - This drink is laboriously prepared in the wee hours of the morning by the friendly husband and wife team. Their ‘Michael Jackson’, the combination of soya bean milk with glass jelly is very popular. Their queue is long but it moves fast. HOURS: 5 am - 1 pm. STALL NUMBER: #02-69 | Jian Bo Shui Kueh - They serve famous Chweekueh (which kinda resembles a deviled egg in shape) soft and bouncy steamed rice flour cake topped with sweet and savoury chai poh (preserved turnip) toppings and served with spicy sambal sauce. | (Apparently, it is better to go to this particular Hawker Center for lunch as many closes for the dinner service) | HOURS: 6:30 am - 10:30 pm. STALL NUMBER: #02-05.
     A MUST visit 

  • PHOTOGRAPHY | House of Tan Teng Niah | Popular with photographers, this unique, colourful Chinese villa with 2 stories was built in the 1900s. Get here early if you want some great shots, as there are always groups of Instagrammers waiting to do mini photo sessions here.
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • SHOPPING | Mustafa Centre | Open 24 hours, the Mustafa Centre in the heart of Little India offers a unique market-style shopping experience. Always be aware of your personal belongings, pickpockets are very common at the Mustafa Centre.
    HOURS: 24 hours
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • BRUNCH OR DINNER | MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms) 1924 Singapore | When searching for the best Indian restaurant in Little India, this place had incredible reviews. They have won several awards, including a certificate of excellence on TripAdvisor (see HERE) for 4 years in a row and best vegetarian restaurant in Singapore. They have different house specialties, as wells as different menus daily, check them out HERE.
    HOURS: 8:30 am - 3 pm for brunch, 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm dinner. Closed Mondays.
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • EXPLORE | Little India and BUGIS STREET | Lots of cheap bargains, clothes, gel manicures etc to be found in this shopping area. | Read more about it on TripAdvisor HERE.
    HOURS (BUGIS ST MARKET): 11 am - 11 pm

  • SNACK | Zam Zam | If you are in Little India and want a snack and not a full meal, stop in for what is known as one of the best murtabak in Singapore. Murtabak is a stuffed roti served with a small portion of curry to dip into | See a video of them being made and eaten HERE.
    HOURS: 7 am - 11 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • EXPLORE | Haji Lane | Haji Lane in Kampong is a quirky/fun/bohemian part of the city and is similar to Cuba St in Wellington. It has a mix of cafes and restaurants as well as small boutiques selling things like clothing, accessories and gifts. This street is in the Arab Quarter now stands out as one of the must-do shopping experiences for those on the lookout for one-of-a-kind items. It can be easy to walk past Haji Lane if you are not looking for it.
     A MUST visit 

  • EXPLORE | Arab Street | “With up and coming hipster hoods popping up around the city, Singapore's veteran creative hub, Arab Street, continues to thrive, morphing into a calmer and cooler version of its once young and overly energetic self. In addition to new trendy hangouts, Arab Street celebrates its colourful heritage in the city-state of Singapore. Rather than just one road, Arab Street actually refers to the area including Bussorah Street, Haji and Bali Lanes and Muscat Street. Part of the culturally rich Kampong Glam heritage trail, Arab Street -- surrounded by brightly coloured fabrics and textiles, hand-knotted Persian rugs and aromatic Arab teas - it's Singapore's Muslim quarter.” - CNN travel
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • SHOPPING | 313@somerset | If you want to beat the mid-day heat, this is a great (air-conditioned) mid-range priced mal. It has a bowling alley on the 3rd floor where you can have a few games and some drinks too. You have to try the caramel macadamia popcorn from Garrett's Popcorn and if you love arcades, then Fat Cat Arcade will be a ton of fun too - both on level 5.
    See on YouTube HERE and the mall floor plan HERE.

    HOURS: 10 am - 10 pm 
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • SNACK | Uncle Chieng’s ice cream | Outside malls and main tourist areas, you will find vendors selling ice cream sandwiches for as little as $1. Watch this YouTube video HERE and their website HERE.

  • BAR | Marina Bay Sands rooftop bar | One of the best views over Singapore in this iconic landmark. When you are not a hotel guest, go to Tower 3 and for a fee of $20 SGD you can take the elevator to the 57th floor for a breathtaking view in the Cest La Vi Bar. You can redeem the $20 SGD for a drink. If you wanted to go for the views alone (and a slightly better view) it is $23 SGD to gain access to the viewing deck.
    HOURS: 12 noon - late
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • SIGHTS | Gardens by the bay | This is a MUST if you come to Singapore! Comprising of three waterfront gardens - Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central - Gardens by the Bay is a showcase of horticulture and garden artistry. Entrance is free, however, entrance to some areas is around $30 NZD per person, but apparently worth it! The Flower Dome has an incredible display of flowers and smells, the Cloud Forest dome where you can explore the jungle plants and rainforest and walk in the canopy and the OBC Skyway which holds great views of Marina Bay area (and is an extra $8 fee). For a full list of things to see and do at the gardens see HERE. TRAVELLERS TIP: The plants at Cloud Forest get “watered” through a mist. The mist comes at 2-hour intervals from 10am. You may wish to visit in the evening for the best effect, as the mist will linger for a while longer in the evening, when it is cooler, turning the Cloud Forest turn into a scene from Jurassic Park or Avatar.
    HOURS: The outdoor gardens - free admission (Supertree Grove, Sun Pavillion, Heritage Gardens, World of Plants and Dragonfly & Kingfisher Lakes) are open from 5am-2pm. The Cooled Conservatories - $28 (for two conservatories) with the peak times being from 4pm-7pm. The OCBC Skyway - $8 is open from 9am-9pm with the peak time being from 5pm-8:
    30 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE
     A MUST visit 

  • DINNER | Din Tai Fung | I found this restaurant when looking for something close by to Gardens by the Bay. I didn't want to go too far as we were going to go back after dinner for the light show. Din Tai Fung is a restaurant originating in Taiwan, specialising in xiaolongbao and Huaiyang cuisine, and now has restaurants all around the world. There are 22 Din Tai Fung in Singapore alone - click HERE for individual shop locations and hours. We visited the one at Marina Bay sands before the light show. Read more on TripAdvisor HERE. Must orders: Oriental Wontons with Black Vinegar & Chilli Oil, Pork xiao long baos, Fried Rice with Shrimps & Eggs (along with the xiao long bao , this is a signature dish), and steamed custard buns.
    HOURS: VARYING HOURS DAILY, CHECK WEBSITE HERE.

    ADDRESS: HERE

  • SIGHTS | Supertree Grove Light Show | Every evening there is a light show at the gardens, the first show takes place at 7.45 pm and the second show comes on at 8.45 pm. The light show is free – no tickets are required. Just show up at Gardens by the Bay Supertree Grove and enjoy the lights and music. 
    HOURS: 7:45 pm and again at 8:45 pm

    ADDRESS: HERE


 

DAY three

  • EXPLORE | Koon Seng Road | This street is lined with beautiful, pastel-coloured houses and is a must stop for photos. The houses are Peranakan-themed houses (Peranakan meaning descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago) and each one is painted completely different from its neighbour.
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • HAWKER CENTER / EARLY LUNCH | Old Airport Road Hawker Center | Because this place is so popular, arrive around between 11-11:30 am to avoid the main lunch rush. Watch this YouTube video from Mark Wiens HERE or this one by Strictly Dumpling HERE. Where to order: Xin Mei Xiang Zheng Zong Lore Mee | By far, the most popular place in the centre to order from! There is always a long line to get this dish, which is always a good sign that the food is worth waiting for. Order the Lor Mee and ask for it to come with medium with noodles, extra fish and add vinegar. This will cost you $5. Lor Mee is Chinese inspired noodle dish in a thick sauce. HOURS: 6 am - 2 pm, closed on Thursday. STALL NUMBER: #01-116
    Nam Sing Hokkien Fried Mee | This is another very popular noodle dish at this Hawker Center, and although the dish does look fancy, apparently it is very tasty and comforting! HOURS: 10 am - 5 pm, closed Monday. STALL NUMBER: #01-32
    ROAST PARADISE - Order the Char Siu pork and the roast pork or the char siew/roast pork noodles $5. See The Food Kings review on YouTube HERE (at 1:07 sec). HOURS: 10:30 am - 5:30 pm Sunday, 11:30 am - 3:30 pm Monday, 11:30 am - 6 pm Tuesday - Saturday. STALL NUMBER: #01-121Wang Wang Crispy Curry Puffs - These curry puffs are $1 each and they are a super flaky homemade pastry with different kinds of fillings. They look incredible! HOURS: 11 am - 11 pmSTALL NUMBER: #01-126 | Fu Qi BBQ seafood - For Sambal Stingray. HOURS: 11 am - 11 pm (?) STALL NUMBER: #01-113.
     A MUST visit 

  • EXPLORE | SENTOSA ISLAND | Sentosa Island is a man-made island that was built for fun and recreation. The many attractions on offer at Sentosa include the expansive Resorts World, Universal Studios Singapore, Tiger Sky Tower, Singapore Butterfly & Insect Kingdom, and one of the largest collections of aquatic animals in the world and the SEA Aquarium. Catch the cable car there to see stunning views. More on the website HERE.

  • DINNER | Bedok 85 Market Hawker Centre | This Hawker Center is less known by tourists and is a favourite among locals. Bak Chor Mee is the dish Bedok 85 is known for which is a hearty bowl of clear noodle soup topped with minced pork and pork balls. The two most famous stalls are Xing Ji Rou Cuo Mian and Seng Hiang Bak Chor Mee that are located next to each other at the front end of the hawker centre. However, many prefer the third stall Ah Poh Minced Meat Noodle because of its shorter wait time and level of consistency. Another must order is the BBQ sambal stingray - there are also two main stalls where people get their sambal stingray from at Bedok 85, Chan BBQ and Chomp Chomp BBQ. At Chomp Chomp BBQ, they use more dried shrimp in their sambal, resulting in a smokey, savoury slice of sambal stingray. Chan BBQ’s sambal is spicier, making it the pick for chilli lovers who love that extra oomph. Both stalls use fresh, thick cuts of stingray, ensuring you always get a piece of juicy meat. No matter how full you are, there’s always space for a chicken wing or two from Sin Bedok North BBQ Chicken Wing. Each wing has been well marinated for hours, resulting in a savoury and charred bite of skin and a juicy middle. Squeezing lime over your chicken wing is also essential. Seen on YouTube HERE (at 10:10 sec)
    HOURS: 10am -2am
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • DESSERT | Mad About Sucre | This little cakery specializes in artisanal handcrafted French cakes, French provincial cuisines and customized celebratory cakes. It won the best Patisserie in Singapore for 2018. Stop her for afternoon coffee and cakes or a post-dinner dessert. Link to TripAdvisor HERE
    HOURS: Tuesday to Saturday: 12:30 pm to 10 pm, Sunday: 12:30 pm to 5 pm, Monday: Closed
    ADDRESS: HERE

 

 

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